Cold Steel GI Tanto review

The Cold Steel GI Tanto is a large tactical knife that is designed to put up with whatever abuse you want to put it through. This knife is perfect for survivalists, campers, hunters and anyone that wants a knife with very few limitations on what it can do.

Cold Steel GI Tanto

In an effort to better help you understand this knife, we have created an interactive table that compares the Cold Steel GI Tanto to other popular blades on the market:

Benchmade-GriptillianBenchmade Griptilian$$$
Ka-Bar Fighting KnifeKa-Bar Fighting Knife$$
Benchmade-556Benchmade Mini Griptilian$$$
Mossy Oak Survival Knife$$
Spyderco TenaciousSpyderco Tenacious$$
Spyderco Paramilitary 2Spyderco Para 3$$$

The Cold Steel GI Tanto’s size

The Cold Steel GI Tanto is a huge knife, with a 7 inch blade, an overall length of a foot and weighing over 10 ounces. This is not a knife you would ever try to fit in your pocket. While most things you do will not require a knife of this size, it is more a knife you get because you want it versus one that you need.

  • Blade Quality

Made of 1055 carbon steel, this blade will put up with a lot more abuse when it is being used as a machete, being rammed through things and dealing with other impacts than a harder carbon steel would.

Unfortunately, because Cold Steel uses knife belt sanders on these knives, they have a tendency to scorch the edge, and therefore the affected metal will usually dull very quickly with usage. To remedy this, you must remove the degraded steel (usually less than 1/8 of an inch) and then your blade will hold its edge much longer and faster.

As this is carbon steel knife and not stainless steel, any exposed metal will rust if moisture is allowed access. Due to this, it is suggested to store this blade outside of its sheath (which should be done with most knives anyway) and to keep the sharpened edge clean and oiled to prevent rust.

This blade was designed to be used for hacking through things, slicing through metal, a throwing knife, and even can be modified to be used as a spear. This knife is truly very versatile and is well balanced with or without the scales attached.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling fixed blade knives currently for sale on Amazon:

1) Mossy Oak
2) Ka-Bar USMC
3) Cold Steel Survivalist
5) Camp Lore PR-4
4) Cold Steel San Mai SRK

  • Handle Design

The handle on this knife is rather unique in its design. This has a full tang and then a pair of polypropylene scales which are removable. The scales themselves seem to have poor grip when they end up wet for any reason, because of this it is recommended that you wear gloves when using this knife.

As previously mentioned, the scales are designed to be removable and this is for multiple reasons. Cold Steel says they do it so that it is “easily converted into a spear or war club” which is quite unique. This blade, when lashed to a well-balanced shaft, would make a very effective spear–be it thrown or held.

  • Sheath

The GI Tanto comes with a Secure-Ex Sheath, which will protect it (and you) from damage or harm when being carried through the wilderness, as this blade has a very sharp edge.

This sheath is made from a solid plastic, and you know the knife is securely locked in in as it makes a “click” sound. It is designed to be worn on your belt, although it does not seem to be MOLLE compatible, which is unfortunate.

GI Tanto Modifications

This section is all about modifications and people’s choice of personalization with this knife. And with its removable scales, full tang, overall simplicity and price of this knife, people like to modify this knife to fit their personal preference both in functionality and appearance.

  • Visual Changes

Some options as far as visual changes that have been done to this knife are as follows:

Bluing: This is an excellent way to prevent rust on your knife and make it a beautiful blue/black. The problems with this are that the coating will wear off with use, and will usually do so unevenly. Also, when you sharpen the edge, that part of the knife will still be exposed and vulnerable to rust if it is not oiled.

If you are looking at having this done, also be aware that the heat from some bluing treatments can affect the steel and may damage your blade or even void your warranty.

Spray painting with outdoor paints: This is usually done to help prevent rust and give the knife a personalized feel. As long as one keeps that in mind, there is little harm in doing this, and there can be some really neat things done to painted blades.

Functionality Changes

Some of the things people have done to this knife that improves or changes the functionality of this knife are:

Sharpening the false edge into a true edge: This does add some use if you are looking at piercing objects with the knife, however, it does make it quite dangerous and caution should be used while sharpening either side of this knife. This may affect the warranty of the knife as well.

Adding material to give the handle more grip: This can be accomplished in a few ways.

Some people find that using a non-skid tape works well for their desires. This can be acquired through any sports store and is usually used for hockey sticks. This can be applied directly in a spiral fashion or it can be wrapped to create a visually appealing design.

Some have also used paracord to wrap their handles, and this can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make it. It can be done with any weight of paracord with or without the internal strings depending on what the end result you are looking for is. This is one example of a fairly simple 550 paracord wrap.

Other materials such as leather, shoelaces, yarn and other cords have also been used successfully.

Removal of the top guard: Some people find the top guard to be cumbersome and of little to no practical use and therefore opt to remove it. This is fairly easy to do but you must remember to properly sand it and then protect the newly-exposed metal. Unless you are planning on redoing the entire knife, it can look quite unfinished and take away from the flow of the knife. This will void the warranty on the knife.


This knife is full of possibilities when you are looking for something that will pierce, slash, shear and hack through anything. The only limitation this blade’s destructive power has is the strength in your arm.

One only needs to look up YouTube and search for “Cold Steel GI Tanto Destruction Test,” and you will be bombarded with displays of this knife’s impressive durability and power. Some of the things you will see this knife cutting through are:

  • Bone

This knife may not be designed to break apart a recent catch yet is definitely up for the challenge. This knife doesn’t stop when it encounters bone but continues right through it. Its sharp point also makes short work of detaching joints and doing finer work a breeze.

  • Cardboard

As cardboard is a common material cut with knives, it is a good display of a common real-world task. Although this knife can do much more than this, it is a good demonstration none the less.

  • Concrete

This is to display the impressive durability of the knife and what little damage it does to the edge. This is not something that should ever be done to a blade in real-world situations, however. Most knives will not put up with even close to this amount of abuse.

  • Fruit

Displaying both the ease of cutting through the fruit but also the ability for fine work, such as thin slices and peeling. This is also a good way to show the blade’s ability to take a beating and maintain an extremely sharp edge.

  • Metal

Whether punching through sheet metal or battering through pipes or rebar, this knife can handle everything and even surpasses knives much more expensive than it.

  • Wood

Showing this knife’s range by using this blade as a wedge to split wood to hacking through limbs of trees, using the tip to gouge out the center of blocks and whittling feather sticks, this knife can manage it all.

Five Quick Facts

  1. Blade Length: 7 inches
  2. Overall Length: 12 inches
  3. Weight: 10.6 ounces
  4. Blade material: 1550 Carbon Steel
  5. Handle material: 1550 Carbon Steel with Polypropylene scales

Closing Thoughts

The Cold Steel GI Tanto is more knife than most people would ever need. However, with its price, it is affordable enough that it does not require to much justification or cajoling. This is a knife you do not have to feel bad about damaging or doing things that you would never do to a $200+ knife, as it is extremely affordable. On top of that, a quick honing will get out most burrs, dents and (if you can manage to get them) chips you may encounter.

In all, this is a great knife for an amazingly low price that will surpass any and all expectations.

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